Office Politics

K had a face-off with the head of the IT department after she sent an email to state the fact, the crystal clear fact.

(Three hours prior to the face-off)

K was asked by her supervisor to teach software skills to an intern.

“HR said IT dept. with low man power cannot assign a technician to train an intern, ” the supervisor said sternly. “We have to train D ourselves. So can you show her how to use — software?”

K couldn’t say no out of respect for office hierarchy. So she put off her lunch break and spent an hour on the tutorial with the intern D.

Fortunately D was a quick learner. She grasped the skills with a snap of finger. Tired and with a sore throat, K returned to her lunch break with a thought that she had done talking for the day.

In the meantime K received an email saying that her earlier request on behalf of her supervisor for a technician to set up a training session with D was complete. The solution was, as the email stated, D would learn required skills from her co-workers.

K wrote back to the head of IT department who closed the request ticket. In her message, she wrote that she and the other co-worker would teach D as requested, but was disappointed to learn that no technician was willing to do so.

Apparently, the head of IT dept. (A for short) took the message as a complaint. He wanted to defend for his guy. In reply, he asked for a face-to-face talk in the presence of K’s supervisor to clarify so-called “misunderstanding”. K went up to his office bravely as she sensed something ugly was about to happen. Rather than waiting for things to happen, make it happen–this had been one of K’s motivation of life.

(Here comes the face-off.)

K: Hi! Just to check out what didn’t get through about this training matter?

A: I’d like to have a talk when S and you, and maybe HR are also here to clear things up.

K: Sure. S finishes work by 2pm. When do you want to meet up?

A: Tomorrow maybe.

K: I want to let you know though that my email just to inform you that the training task is assigned to me and V. No need to worry about it.

A: But your message says my men were unwilling to take the training task. It doesn’t sound right to me. I want to clarify it in front of you and S.

K: My word choice may be poor but it’s not my intention to leave you hard feelings. I was surprised that my request on behalf of S came back to me was I was the one to do the training. I’d much prefer a professional to do that so the intern would get the correct message. I was afraid she followed a bad example from me.

A: No. It won’t happen. I didn’t know you took the training assignment as your were asked by S. That is not my business. What I’m concerned is the misunderstanding here that you said no one from help desk was willing to do the training job. And you ended with “thank you for your attention, exclamation mark”. That bothers me.

(Inside me, I said–yeah, so what, pompous ass! It’s not uncommon that you guys often use the excuse of being too busy or short of staff to postpone training request. It’s not the first time you would say so. This time is even a rejection without explanation. I don’t see any wrong with my message.)

K: You may have misunderstand the meaning of my message. I was glad to help training the intern. I was also pleased that my supervisor trusted me to hand me down this assignment. (Quite the opposite of how I felt but I realized I had to do some acting from now on.) HR had spoken to my supervisor the day before explaining why there was no technician to pick up this training request. I don’t know what that is. (Actually I did the following day from my supervisor but just wanted to make myself innocent.) And I don’t want to poke since this conversation took place behind closed doors. Today my supervisor just asked me to show the intern how to use — software. I was happy to do so. I wrote you an email to follow up on the issue. (Speaking of word choice, the fact was I was so turned off by the word A used in his reply that he “heard from” HR that the training request was completed, therefore he was now closing the request ticket. Gosh! He could have verified by asking my supervisor or the intern. Instead, he only depended on hearsay. That’s so unprofessional and lazy!)

A: Oh, good to know HR had spoken to S. But they may need to meet again just to clarify the issue you mention here. It is not fair to my guys that they are not responsible to train an intern.

K: I thought whenever we have problems we write to help desk for solution. I was asked to send a ticket to help desk for the training. Now you’re telling me they’re not responsible. (I was trying to push A to tell me the real reason behind this “unwillingness” that made him irate. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, he was embarrassed.)

A: Yes. You did the right thing to write to help desk when you have problems. It has never changed. But when it comes to training an intern, it is up to the head of each department. We’d never known what the intern would be doing during the internship. It’s not our business. And we just don’t have the resources to train someone who only works temporarily and leaves in three months or shorter.

(Aha, that was the core issue! Why didn’t he state it clear the first place? I was right about their unwillingness to help due to concern about brain drain. But what is the purpose of  an internship program then? If an intern cannot learn from professionals new skills to enrich their knowledge, why bother to set up an internship program? If management level is worried about losing skilled temps, why does it open the door for contractors? What a contradiction!)

K: I totally understand what you say. As you know, we have a high turnover of contractors. I’m also concerned about spending time to train someone who might leave any minute. But I don’t know intern is an exception. Now I know. At least I know in the future, if we have an intern, I would have reminded my supervisor that training is up to ourselves, not your dept.’s responsibility. (Just to show sympathy, I spoke a bit louder in hope of audience. If one asks for justification, bring it on. But for a couple of times, A gestured to ask me to lower the volume. God knows he must have felt ashamed.)

A: We do training our employees and contractors. Luckily you know how to use — software and you can teach the intern. Why don’t you apply for the full time job?

(Excuse me? Doesn’t he know I am already a full time doing tasks that are not in my job description? Training is not my duty, period.)

K: Yeah. I used to be a contractor and was trained to use — software. Later I applied for the full time to do completely different thing. (I emphasized “completely” so that to make sure he knows the difference of my duty.) I just found it ironic that it was me who sent the ticket for help. It turned out it was also me to solve the problem, at least partly.

A: (He gestured again to signal lower the volume. Aha, he must feel guilty now for fear his unreasonable reason to be heard out loud.) Yes. Actually I also help from time to time for small things out of my duty. My team is so shorthanded. If I can help, I’ll just do it. You’re sharp among your counterparts. And your English is very good.

(Now, it’s the KISS MY ASS [KMA] part. I cared less, if at all, about his compliment. I really didn’t feel good about what he was trying to do. For strange reason, tears were in my eyes. Great, let’s do some acting here.)

K: I’m terribly sorry if I have caused you hard feeling. Totally not my intention. (Tears rolled down on my face. I wiped them with my right fingers, looking sad.) Now I come to you in person in hope that we can clear things out. Messages sometimes are misread and misunderstood. I’m sorry. (I must have apologized too many times to remember, even though inside me my fingers were crossed behind my back.)

A seemed to nervous when seeing my voice was raised and tears fell. He said, “We’re good now. You may tell S that we had spoken. And problem is solved.”

K: OK. I’m back to my work now. Please don’t take my words offsive. (KMA as I cursed inside me)

We shook hands and A said “Ni Hao” to call it for a day. Out I stormed of his office with pride and dignity.


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